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Can I Be Charged With DUI When Sleeping in My Car?

 Posted on September 28,2018 in DUI

Santa Cruz DUI attorney parked carDrinking and driving inarguably puts everyone’s safety at risk. Sometimes, a driver leaves an establishment after consuming alcohol, only to realize that their intoxication was more severe than they originally estimated. Safety-conscious drivers may decide to pull their vehicle to the side of the road, find a rest stop, or even park at a gas station to take a quick nap. Although this decision ultimately prevents a potentially catastrophic accident, it also invites curious police officers to investigate the situation. DUI charges are possible in these cases, even when a drunk driver is parked and sleeping safely inside their vehicle.

DUI in a Parked Car

It is possible to be charged with DUI while in a parked car. However, a police officer must typically be able to show that you voluntarily moved your vehicle before the arrest. Voluntary movement may include something as minimal as a car rolling down a driveway after disengaging the parking brake. Other possible evidence that may show a driver moved their car while intoxicated includes:

  • The engine is warm.
  • The driver is in the driver’s seat.
  • The car is in drive.
  • The vehicle is at the scene of an accident.
  • The keys are in the ignition.

Santa Cruz Camping Ordinances

If someone is sitting in their car and behaving normally, a suspecting cop may not have reason to detain a driver, preventing them from obtaining evidence of a possible DUI. However, the city of Santa Cruz, along with many other California cities, has laws restricting sleeping in public. Many of these laws prohibit owners of registered vehicles from sleeping in their cars, except when there is written consent from the land or business owner granting permission, or in a designated camping area. 

Therefore, when a police officer spots a driver sleeping in their vehicle, they may be able to detain the driver. If an officer suspects that the driver moved their vehicle while intoxicated, DUI charges may follow. Other likely reasons for cops to investigate or detain a sleeping driver include:

  • A third party makes a report against the driver.
  • Someone matching the driver’s description was breaking the law.
  • The officer assumed the driver needed medical attention.

A Santa Cruz DUI Lawyer Can Help

If you or a loved one has been arrested for DUI while sleeping in a parked car, contact a Santa Cruz, CA DUI defense attorney. The laws surrounding DUI are harsh, and penalties can have damaging effects that last for years to come. John W. Thornton, Attorney at Law has over 30 years of experience as a criminal defense lawyer, and he has represented thousands of clients in cases just like yours. Call our office today at  831-426-5800 to schedule a free consultation and find out how we can help you.


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